Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Benguet Mining in Ilocos Norte

Benguet Consolidated Mining Corporation (BenguetCorp) held its first province-wide public consultation today at the Ilocos Norte Capitol Auditorium.

Above is a photo of BenguetCorp's President and CEO, Mr. Benjamin Philip Romualdez, explaining to us the ABCs of large-scale responsible mining.

The afternoon program was well organized.  First, officials from the DENR talked about mining in general.

Next, officers from the MGB discussed the FTAA process.

Then, representatives from the NCIP (since most of the prospected lands are ancestral lands belonging to indigenous peoples) explained the IPRA law.

The organizers were smart because around this time waiters started serving food.  Now, usually in this kind of forum ang snack namin kape at biskwit lang.  Aba, heavy merienda ang sinerve.  Pang mayaman.  (see picture below)

We were served barbeque, fried chicken, pancit, fresh lumpia, soda, coffee, cream puff and brownie.

By the time all of us were full, that's when Mr. Romualdez gave his presentation.  I kidded with my seatmate na matalino ang BenguetCorp.  Pinakain muna kami para maantok kami at di na tumayo at mag-react during the open forum  Hehehe.

Anyway, Mr. Romualdez' presentation was very convincing.  They are still at the FTAA application stage.  They want to explore 5 towns, namely, Adams, Vintar, Carasi, Solsona and Nueva Era.  A total of 21,000 hectares.  According to their initial research our province has Gold, Manganese, Iron and Copper.  'wag daw muna kami mag-alarm kasi "exploration stage" lang daw sila.  And it will take them 4 years to explore, if permitted.  And another 7 years to make feasibility studies, again, if permitted.  After that, tsaka lang sila magmimina.  So, matagal pa daw.

Then, pinasalita nila si Bishop Utleg.  He said kahit na malayo pa yung time na magmimina ang BenguetCorp, if we allow them to explore now, it is as if we are allowing them to mine in the future.  For how can we then tell them to go away after they have made their studies (and apparently would have spent 9 million pesos)?  By that time, di na kami makaka-hindi.  

Afterwards, Open Forum na.  Usually, ako ang unang nagtatanong (ganito na ako grade school pa lang), but this time I didn't have to initiate.  Ang daming mga stakeholders and pumunta sa mic at nagtanong.  In fact yung mga IPs from Adams came complete with big placards which read, "NO TO MINING!"

After about 35 minutes, while people still wanted to ask questions, Congressman Bongbong Marcos stood up and gave his remarks.  In a nutshell, he said for us to study this matter extensively, and that we should balance environmental concerns as well as its economic benefits.

And then tapos na.

Sa akin lang, yes, may benefits sa mining.  And as chair of the committee on ways and means, I should be endorsing this project since it would mean jobs to hundreds of ilocanos and added income for LGUs.  Pero alanganin ako kasi kahit sabihin natin na pwede naman magkaroon ng RESPONSIBLE mining, the truth of the matter is, may mawawala sa lupa namin.

Kahit gano ka ingat ang minero sa pag-mina, may mawawala na mineral resource.  You can't replant gold, like trees.  That's the bottom line.

So, tama nga si Congressman Marcos.  This is a complicated issue.  Kelangan talagang pagbalansehin ang dalawang panig.

mag-re-research muna ako...


Shiela said...

According to UNEP Global Honro Roll Awardee Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr., there is no such thing as environment-friendly mining. Mag-ingat kayo bago payagang galawin ang lupa ng inyong mga ninuno.

Kris Ablan said...

Thanks, Shiela!

Anonymous said...

I was one of those who wanted to ask more questions. Sakto...well-organized nga, Sir. I didn't touch the food though. Baka may gayuma. Shiela might be right. Talked to a geodetic engineer/mountaineer just today and he said there's no such thing as responsible mining. Trees will always have to be cut.